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Talmud

TALMUD

The Jewish teachings of the sages.

The Pentateuch (Torah), Prophets (Neviʾim), and Hagiographa (Ketuvim) constitute the written law of Judaism. Over the years, that law was discussed, interpreted, and transferred. These teachings of the sages are known as the oral law. Eventually, the oral law (torah she-bʿal peh) was written down and formed the basis of the Talmud. While torah refers only to the written law and talmud to the oral law, both terms essentially carry the same meaning: teaching or study. Since it is incumbent upon the children of Israel to follow the path of their ancestors, it is necessary for the Jewish people to continually teach and study the law until they understand and follow it completely.


Scholars differ as to when the Talmud began to be written down and whether it was based on notes or recorded upon its completion. It is generally accepted that Rabbi Yehuda ha-Nasi (170219 c.e.) compiled and edited the first section of the Talmud, the Mishnayot (pl. of mishna, or teaching, to distinguish it from Torah) from a multitude of manuscripts, perhaps in different dialects and languages.


The Mishnayot are organized into six sections, or sedarim, each dealing with a particular subject. The sections are then subdivided into tracts (or mesekhtot, singular mesekhta ) that deal with matters relating to those sections. The sections are: Seeds (or Zeraʿim, which includes laws relating to vegetables; offerings; tithes; and shmitta, the sabbatical year); Festivals (or Moʿed, holidays; the Sabbath; and more general laws affected by the festivals); Women (or Nashim, including marriage and divorce); Damages (or Nezikin, laws of property; penalties; and morals); Sacred Things (or Kodashim, sacrifices; laws of the first born; and slaughtering); Purifications (or Tohorot, defilement and purification in general; and defilement of vessels, tents, and menstruating women).


The Mishnayot were imparted with a degree of sanctity that dictated that nothing could be added to or subtracted from them. Upon their completion, religious colleges were established in Palestine and Babylonia to explain their meaning and to extrapolate the laws that emanated from them. This task was complicated by contradictory Mishnayot and by the discovery of new texts that had not been incorporated in the Mishnayot. The body of knowledge that developed from the discussions and the explanations of the Mishna came to be called Gemara (Aramaic for teaching ). The tractates of the Gemara are arranged like the sections of the Mishnayot. The Mishna opens the tractate and is followed by the Gemara. The Mishna and the Gemara together constitute the Talmud.

At the time of Rabbi Yehuda ha-Nasi's death, the Roman-dominated Middle East was characterized by political strife, which led many Jews to leave Galilee for Persian-ruled Babylon. The development of the Talmud continued there. The Palestinian Talmud, also known as the Jerusalem Talmud (Talmud Yerushalmi), was finalized in about 400 c.e. (although it might have been much later). The Babylonian Talmud (Talmud Bavli, which might have developed without its formulators knowing about the Jerusalem Talmud) was finalized in about 500 c.e. Although the Jerusalem Talmud includes more tracts (thirty-nine to the Babylonian's thirty-seven), it is considerably smaller (about one-fourth the size) and less elaborate, especially in the field of religious law (Halakhah). It is stronger in Aggadah, a collection of legends and stories, proverbs, parables, and mystic and veiled religious wisdom. The Babylonian Talmud, with its emphasis on religious law, became the dominant focus of study. This was partially determined by the political situation, which allowed the Jews in exile to study the Talmud to a greater degree than Jews could in Palestine. It is the Babylonian Talmud that continues to dominate today.

Talmudic rulings have served as the basis for religious law in Judaism throughout the generations. A vast rabbinic literature now exists based on discussions and analyses stemming from Talmudic discourse. Whereas elementary school education includes the study of the Pentateuch and Prophets, advanced religious education in higher yeshivot (Torah seminaries) concentrates on the study of the Talmud. Religious traditionalists reject the scientific approach to the study of the Talmud, which has developed in the university. Many similarly reject the desire of a small but increasing number of Orthodox women who wish to take part in intensive religious study, believing that only men are allowed to learn this sacred text.

Bibliography


Gilbert, Martin, ed. The Illustrated Atlas of Jewish Civilization: 4,000 Years of Jewish History. New York: Macmillan, 1990.

benjamin joseph
updated by ephraim tabory

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"Talmud." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Talmud

Talmud (tăl´məd) [Aramaic from Heb.,=learning], in Judaism, vast compilation of the Oral Law with rabbinical elucidations, elaborations, and commentaries, in contradistinction to the Scriptures or Written Laws. The Talmud is the accepted authority for Orthodox Jews everywhere. Its two divisions are the Mishna or text of the Oral Law (in Hebrew) and the Gemara (in Aramaic), a commentary on the Mishna, which it supplements. The Mishna is divided into six Orders (Sedarim) and comprises 63 tractates (Massektoth), only 361/2 of which have a Gemara. The redaction of the Mishna was completed under the auspices of Juda ha-Nasi, c.AD 200, who collected and codified the legal material that had accumulated through the exposition of the Law by the Scribes (Soferim), particularly Hillel and Shammai, and its elaboration by the Tannaim of the 1st and 2d cent. AD, particularly Akiba ben Joseph. The Gemara developed out of the interpretations of the Mishna by the Amoraim. Both the Palestinian and Babylonian schools produced Talmuds, known respectively as the Talmud Yerushalmi (compiled c.5th cent. AD) and the Talmud Babli (c.6th cent. AD). The Babylonian Talmud is longer and more comprehensive and sophisticated than the Talmud Yerushalmi. It became the authoritative work due in part to the predominance of Babylonian Jewry and the decline of the Palestinian community by the year 1000. The Talmud touches on a wide range of subjects, offering information and comment on astronomy, geography, historical lore, domestic relations, and folklore. The legal sections of the Talmud are known as the halakah; the poetical digressions, illustrating the application of religious and ethical principles through parables, legends, allegories, tales, and anecdotes, constitute the Aggada. In the Middle Ages there arose a vast literature of commentaries on the Gemara—commentaries on those commentaries—and responsa (questions and answers); Rashi was one of the best-known commentators, and his commentaries are included in standard editions of the Talmud. In the Middle Ages thousands of Talmud manuscripts were destroyed by the Christians. The term Talmud is sometimes used to refer to the Gemara alone.

See The Babylonian Talmud (34 vol., tr. 1935–48); J. Goldin, The Living Talmud (1957, repr. 1964); H. L. Strack, Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash (1931, repr. 1969); C. G. Montefiore and H. Loewe, ed., A Rabbinic Anthology (1970); J. Neuser, Invitation to the Talmud (1973, repr. 1984); A. Steinsaltz, ed., The Talmud (Vol. I–XX, 1989–99) and The Essential Talmud (1992); D. H. Akenson, Surpassing Wonder: The Invention of the Bible and the Talmuds (1999).

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"Talmud." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Talmud

Talmud (from Heb., lmd, learn, study, teach). The body of teaching, commentary and discussion of the Jewish amoraim on the Mishnah. There are two Talmuds: the Jerusalem (or Palestinian) Talmud which originated in Erez Israel in c.500 CE, and the Babylonian Talmud which was completed in c.600 CE. Both works are commentaries on some or all of the Mishnaic orders of Zeraʾim, Moʿed, Nashim, and Nezikin. The Babylonian Talmud also includes commentaries on Kodashim and Tohorot. The commentaries on the Mishnah are known as gemāra. By the 11th cent. the supremacy of the Babylonian Talmud was finally established. The entire Talmud text contains c.2 ½ million words, one-third halakhah and two-thirds aggadah. Once it became an authoritative text, commentaries on it began to be produced, the most popular and influential being that of Rashi which was completed in the 12th and 13th cents. by the tosafists.

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"Talmud." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Talmud

Tal·mud / ˈtälˌmoŏd; ˈtalməd/ • n. (the Talmud) the body of Jewish civil and ceremonial law and legend comprising the Mishnah and the Gemara. There are two versions of the Talmud: the Babylonian Talmud (which dates from the 5th century ad but includes earlier material) and the earlier Palestinian or Jerusalem Talmud. DERIVATIVES: Tal·mud·ic / talˈm(y)oōdik; -ˈmoŏdik/ adj. Tal·mud·i·cal / talˈm(y)oōdikəl; -ˈmoŏd-/ adj. Tal·mud·ist / ˈtälmoŏdist; ˈtalməd-/ n.

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"Talmud." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Talmud

Talmud Body of Jewish religious and civil laws and learned interpretations of their meanings. Study of the Talmud is central to Orthodox Judaism. The Talmud consists of two elements: the Mishna and the Gemara. The Mishna is the written version of a set of oral laws that were handed down from the time of Moses (c.1200 bc); the written version was completed by c.ad 200. The Gemara, the interpretation and commentary on the Mishna, was completed by c.500. The Talmud consists of short passages from the Mishna followed by the relevant and extensive part of the Gemara.

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Talmud

Talmud the body of Jewish civil and ceremonial law and legend comprising the Mishnah and the Gemara. There are two versions of the Talmud: the Babylonian Talmud (which dates from the 5th century ad but includes earlier material) and the earlier Palestinian or Jerusalem Talmud.
Talmud Torah the field of study that deals with the Jewish law.

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"Talmud." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Talmud

Talmud body of Jewish law (Mishnah) and commentary on this (Gemara): XVI. — late Heb. talmûdh instruction, f. lāmadh instruct.

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Talmud

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